Putting generational differences to work in rural Minnesota

Posted in Community Leadership

Watergate. 9/11. JFK assassination. WWI. WWII. Y2K. What major events shaped the way you view the world? Chances are it depends when you were born.

Similarly, the way you communicate was probably influenced by the technological advances that occurred as you were growing up. These influences, along with parenting trends, media, education, location, and general philosophy, shape our values, said a representative from the Northeast Minnesota Office of Job Training at last week’s Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon. They also shape our work expectations.

As the Baby Boomer population ages and the Millennials quickly become the largest generation in the workforce, it’s vital to understand what motivates each group to have a productive, cohesive workplace. How does each generation prefer to communicate? What do they expect out of a given job? How do they like to work? And when do these things clash?

Rural communities should take these things into account when crafting their attraction strategies.

So what do you need to know?

For starters, rural brain gain research tells us that GenXers (born 1965-1980) crave a high quality of life and they’re motivated by security, both physical and job-related. We also know that Millennials (born 1980-1995) work to maintain their personal lifestyle and that their workplace loyalty is a result of cultivated personal relationships.

As these generations engage with Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964), who “live to work,” ideological differences arise, leaving all parties dissatisfied. This may result in a loss of talent, generational knowledge transfer or a positive workplace culture.

Here are some things your rural community can do to create a workplace environment that nourishes each generation’s predilections:

Educate yourself and your co-workers on generational workplace expectations

You won’t be able to fully recognize and appreciate generational differences unless you know the basics. If you’re aware of any local, or regional, workshops on the topic, make sure to attend. There are also a number of online resources below that can help to introduce you to the topic.

Value all employees

“Organizations in which workers feel valued, recognized, appreciated, and supported may have higher retention rates.” There are generational differences in the top reasons for happiness in the workplace, but overall employee want to feel valued. Through your interactions with each employee, determine how to best show your appreciation for their work.

Over communicate

If a conflict arises, communicate aggressively – meaning avoid behind-the-back talk and simply say what you’re thinking. Try not to make assumptions based off questions asked. Instead, try to identify the root cause of the question and, when in doubt, ask.

Honor generational differences

In your management style and human resources practices, make an honest attempt to honor generational differences. What type of training are employees interested in? How do they like to receive feedback? And with what frequency? Make an intentional effort to craft opportunities that resonate with the different generations. This includes:

  • Offering different type of learning opportunities: Offer training in the form of one-on-one coaching, interactive computer-based training and classroom courses.
  • Multi-modal communication: Run organizational communication through multiple channels, like email, instant message, staff meetings, an online staff portal, over the telephone, etc.

Online resources:

Supervision of Intergenerational Dynamics, University of Iowa

Intergernational Communication, Training Magazine

Generational differences in the workplace, University of Minnesota